Thursday, May 9th, 2013
By Eric Adams
Prepare kits for disaster
  MINSTER - The blizzard of 1978; the 1996 fire at New Bremen's Dairy Farm Products; the Cridersville tornado of 2010.
The unrelated incidents, isolated by years of small-town tranquility, share one important denominator - they all changed lives in an instant and all could happen again at any time.
Minster police and fire chiefs, and EMS and Red Cross leaders on Wednesday offered safety tips to village residents during the first-ever "Disaster Preparedness" program.
Ken Cline, who spent 34 years with the St. Marys Fire Department before becoming Auglaize County's Red Cross director in January 2012, told the few dozen people in the high school cafteria the importance of having a well-practiced safety plan and disaster supplies kit.
The plan should include a floor layout of the home which shows at least two escape routes, according to Cline, as well as a designated location away from the home where family members can meet in the event of separation.
"Chances are your family's not going to be all together when the disaster strikes," he said. "(And) your home may not be livable."
Police Chief Randy Houseworth also pointed out that residents should come nowhere near a disaster situation.
"That's where we're going to run into problems, when everybody wants to come out with their smartphones and take pictures," he said. "That's not going to help us at all."
Another predetermination Cline recommended was specifying a friend or relative living outside the area to whom all family members could report to say whether they were OK. Contact information for this person, as well as other emergency numbers, should be posted by the phone, he said.
He and fire chief Dale Dues stressed residents should also know how to shut off their water, gas and electric power.
"The fire department ... will have to prioritize their calls (in an emergency)," he said. "If you have a gas leak and somebody else's house is on fire ... you may have to wait an hour (and) you could prevent an explosion by turning your gas off."
In addition to basic emergency amenities like flashlight, hygiene products and extra clothing, Cline said a three-day supply of non-perishable food and several gallon water jugs should be at every family's disposal. The Red Cross proposes one gallon per person, per day.
"You probably will not have the opportunity to shop or search for supplies," he said, referencing the grocery store rush that often occurs when an impending blizzard is announced.
"Those things (water, bread, milk, etc.) we should be planning way ahead of time."
Other items he recommended for the kit included a hand-crank radio, extra batteries for the flashlight, matches in a waterproof container, a whistle and photocopies of identification/credit cards.
Nearly all the presenters emphasized the cruciality of bringing medications along when disaster strikes, and if possible storing extra medicine bottles in the kit. While certain pharmacies will attempt to make emergency prescriptions available, there are no guarantees, and Red Cross shelters will not have them.
Items forbidden in Red Cross shelters include alcohol, illegal drugs and weapons, and Cline strongly cautioned against bringing valuables.
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